QUESTION: Imam, thank you for your previous answer on those that are cursed. I have another question if you don't mind. You speak often about the tradition of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed. My understanding is that as Muslims we follow the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammed. Can you please explain what is meant by the tradition of the Imam in this context.
IMAM EARL ABDULMALIK MOHAMMED: I see that you are a well-meaning person and therefore your questions are welcome. What you are asking is a very serious matter. There are many who want to criticize my use of this description -'tradition of Imam W. Deen Mohammed'. Mainly, they are those who have fought against Imam Mohammed's influence and leadership. But, it is important for me to say that it is not language I am using recklessly, or irresponsibly. Most of those who criticize are limited in their understanding. They do not have a sound grasp of Prophet Muhammed's tradition, or their grasp of it is selfish or obtuse, and therefore they cannot appreciate and do not want to acknowledge Imam W. Deen Mohammed's tradition. At some point soon we will have to give a major address on this subject, teach classes on it, and perhaps also even write a book on this subject.
You are absolutely correct that we follow the tradition of Prophet Muhammed. And in this conscientious following of Prophet Muhammed, and in obeying his tradition with knowledge, is where we will come to the understanding of what is meant by the 'tradition' of Imam W. Deen Mohammed. This is not an empty description with nothing supporting it. This is not love-talk, or infatuation with the memory of our late leader, or embellishment. Imam W. Deen Mohammed did not like flattery and he didn't approve it for himself. So, this is not flattery. If I was saying "Imam W. Deen Mohammed's tradition" as a matter of flattery it would be a statement of serious error in Islamic understanding and not acceptable as Islamic teaching. It would disqualify me as his successor, and as an imam fit to lead any group in prayers or any other religious obligation or any matter, period.
That is how serious this is. Everything I have been saying is based on firm knowledge in Islam and its sacred sources. What I am saying now is a conscious statement. And it must be a conscientious attention we are giving to Prophet Muhammed's tradition to understand it. If we are only giving Prophet Muhammed's tradition surface attention, or just repeating words we heard someone else speaking with regard to the Prophet's 'sunnah' and what that means only generally, and we haven't taken the time to give it consideration within the needs of our own life, or within our own human community context, then we are not really appreciating what is there. It is within Prophet Muhammed's specific teachings where we will find the support and verification for following the tradition of Imam W. Deen Mohammed and his leadership. And when you find it there, you will bite down hard on it and you will never part with it.
Those who see Prophet Muhammed best, can see his teaching and tradition when it is properly exhibited in all of its beautiful varieties of expression. And they can also see when it is improperly exhibited. His Sunnah is not constricted to a rhetorical or literal exercise or a cultural style or among a certain ethnic group, like some Muslims seem to think. It is true, to follow his sunnah properly it must be with clean intent and precise uniformity, but it must also be free of any constrictive moral arrogance or ignorance. To be truly his 'sunnah' it must qualify as a universally-upheld and proven moral foundation upon which any well-meaning individual or People may confidently build for themselves individual and community-life establishments, and realize for themselves universally-respected individual and community aspirations.
If the natural dignity of an individual or a People are not regarded by someone's interpretation of Prophet Muhammed's 'sunnah' so as to disrespect their essential human identity, then that interpretation is morally disqualified. Every group that follows Prophet Muhammed truly, are a People unto themselves, with their own unique Islamic presence and dignity within his interracial, interethnic, international following. They are within the ummah, or the universal following of the Prophet, but they each in their own emphasis give breadth, vitality, depth, and dimension to that following. If you cannot see your own self as an independent People in the universality of Islam, then you have not understood Prophet Muhammed's tradition. This principle is what explains the concept of Islamic brotherhood. The Prophet said that the brotherhood of Believers is like the equality of the teeth of a comb, all the teeth being in their independent spaces, but with uniformity in their purpose.
We follow Prophet Muhammed as the one demonstrating perfect obedience of the Lord-Creator, Allah. We first see this in his natural excellence, in his natural morality, in his perfectly balanced character and integrity, in the perfect thinking and reasoning that we witness in his decision-making before he met with Allah's Word, before language was revealed to him to characterize what the destiny of a correct and perfect Faith is. Even before he met with the Guidance from Allah, we think of him still as having the 'hunafaa' reasoning. That is to say, like Abraham -peace be on him, he understood that he was a life-form with an inherent dignity, a created dignity, a natural dignity, and he was obeying the demands of that dignity as best as he could comprehend and act. His actions were with a conscientious respect for what he understood his purpose to be. We follow him in all that is demonstrated in his behavior, and in that which explains that behavior. This is all in the category of what is referred to as his 'uswah.' His 'uswah' is to say that his life is the demonstration of perfect worship and obedience to Allah, a demonstration or practice of perfected human intent and the resulting perfect human conduct that is first expressed in the nature of his humanity. We are not yet speaking of his 'sunnah.' The formal record of all this activity in his essential human self when confirmed by the Revelation, is what is referred to as his 'sunnah', and we might say his 'tradition.'
So when we say we are following his 'sunnah', we are referring to the formal record or tradition. That formal tradition is constructed upon something before it can be followed. When we are looking specifically at the man, the prayers and the peace be on him, in his human activities and that which explain his instinct to choose and act on what is good over the bad, and to define that good as the proper human behavior directed and governed by the Guidance -the Holy Qur'an, and rising in his conscious mind, in his heart, upon the foundation of his natural humanity, his natural human excellence, we are referring to his 'uswah.' Before Revelation came to him, his primary inclination as a human being was to find and know and embrace his human purpose, and then, by logic and reasoning, to obey That One Which bestowed upon him 'purpose.' And it was That One Which revealed to him how he should understand his purpose and how he should establish that understanding both as an individual and as a community.
If we understand the Prophet Abraham as a "Community" - as the Qur'an refers to him, then by reasoning Muhammed is also a Community. So, this is why the learned refer to the Prophet's following as the Ahlus-Sunnah, or the People of the Sunnah. And why we can say that Madinah is the City of the Prophet. It is not only because he lived there or he is buried there. It is because his People following his tradition are there. (As a note for clarity here, we shouldn't say "Who" in English or any language when referring to Allah, our Lord and Creator. This is an example of the teaching in the tradition of Imam W. Deen Mohammed. "Who" is doubt. There is no doubt about Allah. He is the Reality. He is the Living. He is the Ever-Existing. So, if we are describing a time where the Prophet is not acquainted with Allah, then it is better in English to say "That One Which." Also, we shouldn't spell 'Muhammed' in English with 'm-a-d' at the end, because this was the accusation made against the Prophet, that he was 'mad', as in insane. This proper English spelling of the Prophet's name is also of the tradition of Imam W. Deen Mohammed. It speaks to Imam W. Deen Mohammed's sensitivity to guard the Sunnah.) Prophet Muhammed's life demonstrates this process as a record for human progress, and this specific process is his 'uswah'. The formal record that we study and follow, that shows us all of the important details, is his 'sunnah' or tradition.
It is reported that Prophet Muhammed said "The knowledge of this community (ummah) will be preserved and passed down by the trustworthy, so as to refute the changes attempted by the hypocrites, to expose the lies of the rejecters, and to clarify the misunderstandings of the ignorant."
There has been no Islamic tradition in the West that follows in the spirit of what the Prophet described here except for Imam W. Deen Mohammed's teaching. In its legitimacy in bringing a People to successfully construct their Muslim community existence and identity upon a pure and correct conclusion concerning the Oneness of G'd, and their recognition and understanding of the immense value of human nature as they perceived it in Prophet Muhammed's innocence as a predicate factor for the realization of a just order in society, its integrity as al-Islam and its legitimacy as al-Islam cannot be disputed. It is the original Muslim-American identity, not in any way an inauthentic misrepresentation or fraudulent copy of other Islamic schools of thought. It was not brought to America by immigrants, and no immigrant American community of Muslims can claim it. It was not bequeathed to slaves and their descendants by Muslim-African forefathers. It is the only qualifying and existing school of Islamic thought in the West, indigenous to the Muslim-African-American People and conceived in their unique human story and struggle in America and spoken in their special language and drawing from their special experience. It is not exclusive to them, that is to say that it does not deny any other's embrace, but it began in the collective soul of the African-American People's search for human identity that was purposely denied by the design and deliberate consequence of American slavery, American-style oppression and justifications and discriminations inherent to the American race construct.
In the history of Islam there is no other tradition among any people in any land that so closely parallels Muhammed the Prophet's 'uswah' foundation. Imam W. Deen Mohammed's tradition did not begin and was not established on the jurisprudence of any existing scholarly Muslim tradition. It is the purest of Islamic traditions, a quality preceding the founding of the 4 major schools of thought, and fulfills the Prophet's teaching as the property and inheritance of the 'trustworthy.' A close and honest study will reveal that Imam W. Deen Mohammed is THE inheritor of the Prophet's tradition. His story as leader and teacher began upon the same 'hunafaa' sensitivity and reasoning that we associate with Prophet Muhammed's 'uswah'. It is the Mahdi-form of salvation for Islamic language and appeal, and the Mahdi-like leadership in the present world.
The tradition of Imam W. Deen Mohammed focuses American Muslim aspirations so as to refute the arguments that Democracy and the essential purity of the American idea, and al-Islam, are incompatible. The tradition of Imam W. Deen Mohammed exonerates all who are innocent in their faith from the lies of those who want to make Muslims the only Believers worthy of G'd's Favor and Blessings, and buries the notion that Muslims and other people of faith cannot co-exist and cooperate for the best possible human existence. The tradition of Imam W. Deen Mohammed speaks directly to the errors made by his father's teacher, declares innocence for his father and his followers, and condemns any who abused his father's intent by claiming that he was acting on anything but the Islamic principle of sincerity.
My brother, in asking me this question, you have given me the opportunity to explain and fulfill my role, in part. It is for this reason that Imam W. Deen Mohammed chose me and intended that I succeed his leadership. He authorized me to explain and apply his tradition in these moments. If there is another person who has this ability, I will stand behind he or she, and give them all of my energy of support. If there is not, then I ask that our People be honest, and support the one Allah has shown you to support for our community leadership and integrity.